I took Friday off, ran 20 miles in the morning, and then drove over to Julian. The town was small but I did plenty of walking and sightseeing and shopping. And picture taking. And smelling all the apple pies and dumplings baking. Oh, and it had rained on the drive up there so the baking and the fresh rain made for a fabulous scent in the air.
I had a sandwich for dinner but no pie. :( Played by the rules of no new food the night before a race. Boo! But probably for the best and I figured I could have it for lunch after the race as a celebration. After that, I went back to the hotel to put my feet up. The hotel was...quaint. In a Bates Motel kind of way. Seriously. No, not really. Maybe a little. ;) It was in the mountains...in an old mining town...on Friday the 13th. THIS is why it doesn't always pay to have an active imagination. Yes, I did pull back the shower curtain to check! You would have to. You know it! Anyway, it had real keys to open the door, only 3 channels on the TV (a local station, HBO, and Cartoon Network), couldn't plug my laptop in, and a piece of wood to cover a floor vent if we wanted to "turn off" the air conditioning. Well, I wanted adventure, right? I sure got it. I am totally tech spoiled now. So sad. ;)
The next morning, I got up and went thru my normal routine and left the hotel at 5:15 to drive over to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. On the drive, I saw a golden eagle hanging out by the road and then a deer crossing the road. It stopped and looked at me which was kind of cool. Yep, I was in the mountains. :) Got to the trailhead where the Halfers were parking and then took a shuttle into the park and the race start. This is the view we saw when we got off the shuttle:
That's Stonewall Peak. The first of 2 peaks we would be running. We would be crossing this valley around to the backside of Stonewall Peak.
I checked in and talked to two women who'd been staying at the same motel (who also were thinking Bates Motel/Friday the 13th) and a few others while we waited for the start. At 7:05, we were off! The first 2 miles went by quickly. It was all easy single track and I was in the train of runners so there wasn't much looking around. Once we thinned out, I got to see what we were running thru and...WOW. It was so beautiful. My legs were a little tired and I made the decision that I was just going to enjoy the run and take pictures along the way. This is as we got close to Stonewall Peak:
The climb up to Stonewall Peak was hot with some rocky sections. I did more hiking than I'd hoped. I was really sweating and reached into my Nathan for my Scaps and they weren't there. Oops. I think they fell out because I put them in a pocket that doesn't close. :( I knew they would have some at the aid station so I didn't panic too much. This is the view looking back over the valley we ran thru:
Just before I got to the top of Stonewall Peak, I got stung by a bee on my ear. I thought a fly was there and I went to whack it but it was a bee and I pissed it off so it stung me! I killed that little sucker and then got the stinger out. My ear throbbed almost til the end of the race! Luckily, I'm not allergic. But that was NOT fun. :(
The run down was on a hiking/equestrian trail and was pretty fun but also rocky. My right foot wasn't liking it too much so I was super careful. I still tripped 3 times though. Sigh. Finally I made it to the only aid station for the halfers just before mile 7. I took an Scap right then and put another one in a pocket that closes. Grabbed a Thin Mint (bonus points for Thin Mints!) and a Fig Newton and headed out just behind another runner.
And guess what? We got lost almost immediately. The trail was marked at a turn but what neither of us saw was that there were two trails at the turn: one that was almost a u-turn and one that was a right turn. We didn't see the u-turn and took the right turn one. But then we got to a point where we could go in a couple of directions and there weren't any markings and I told her that I didn't think we were going the right way. I stopped and pulled out my map but she stopped and then kept running. While I was looking at the map, she came back and said she agreed. I had the topo map and she had the turn-by-turn map and together we figured out where we'd gone wrong so backtracked and made it onto the right trail. Whew! My first time getting lost in a race! At least it wasn't for too long and I wasn't worried about time.
After the aid station we had about a mile of rolling trail and then started the climb to our second peak - Middle Peak. The views on this side were my favorite:
We had a nice downhill and then we had the real climb up to Middle Peak. That's were I saw one of the pretties views I've ever seen. I'm telling you, I didn't even care that we were going uphill it was that beautiful.
Can you see the little runners in front of me? As I was climbing Middle Peak, clouds started to roll in and I wondered if we'd get rain. Clouds are a photographer's dream! They always add drama to a pic. :)
Later I found out that 2 fires had gone thru the park in the last 10 years. The big one burned 90% of the park and you could see a lot of the burnt trees on this side. It made it seem even more dramatic and kind of surreal.
I finally made it to the top and and I thought I only had 1.5 miles left so was pretty happy. As we headed down, we got to look out over the valley from the opposite side so got a great view of Stonewall Peak again.
Still no rain but the clouds did block the sun a few times. My Garmin beeped at me to let me know that I'd hit 13 miles but I was nowhere near the bottom. I finally hit the last turn to the finish (marked by an arrow made out of stones and flowers) and sailed into the finish. 14.22 miles for the day. So I got extra fun for my money! This is my medal:
After a little while, I picked up my race shirt (since we didn't have our cars we could pick it up after) and walked down to where the shuttle was supposed to pick us up. There was a group waiting there and we talked races while we waited. An SUV pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride back to our cars and we all said sure. It started raining on the ride back but stopped when I got to the car. I cleaned up a little and then headed back to Julian where I stopped to eat lunch. I wanted to have some apple pie and cider but then I ordered this:
It's called the Monty de Julian and it's a ham and cheese sandwich made with apple jam, apple carmelized onions and french toast for the bread. With garlic fries which were more like breakfast potatoes. It.Was.So.Good. I ate probably 90% of it and then had no room left for pie. But it was worth it. You know how much I love pancakes to celebrate so this was perfect for me!
So that's it. My Julian/Cuyamaca adventure. It was jam packed with fun and wild happenings and everything that I'd hoped. Even the no pie and the stupid bee are fine. This is one race I would do again. I think it was the most beautiful trail race I've done so far. Even more so than Zion.
Thanks for reading!